Jan 31, 2022 - News

Starbucks employees at 2 Philadelphia stores seek to unionize

The Starbucks logo outside a store in Philadelphia.

The Starbucks logo seen outside a store on May 2018 in Philadelphia. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty

Starbucks employees at a pair of Philadelphia stores have filed petitions seeking to unionize — and more could follow.

Why it matters: Only two of Starbucks' roughly 9,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. have unionized.

  • Two stores in the Buffalo, New York, area voted to unionize in December, and several others across the country have begun filing petitions.
  • The Philadelphia stores are believed to be the first company-owned stores in Pennsylvania to file union petitions, said Alex Riccio, a Workers United staff organizer working on the campaign.

Of note: Some Starbucks locations that are owned and operated by other companies through licensing agreements are unionized.

Driving the news: The Starbucks workers at 1945 Callowhill St. and 600 S 9th St. filed petitions to hold elections on union representation with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Friday.

  • Baristas and shift supervisors at the stores have been organizing for months. They're seeking to join Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union.

The big picture: The coffee giant is against unions forming at its stores, according to a December letter to employees from Starbucks executive vice president Rossann Williams.

  • "From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed. However, we have also said that we respect the legal process," Williams said.

How it works: To qualify for a vote, at least 30% of eligible workers must sign union cards.

  • Riccio said both Philadelphia stores had a "super majority" of workers who signed cards.

What they're saying: Employees who are part of the union campaign said they're seeking protections against retaliation and unjust firings, more consistent and fair scheduling, and higher pay, among other things.

  • Colter Chatriand, a barista at the Callowhill store and a main organizer of the campaign, said working at Starbucks "can be very chaotic," and issues raised by employees go largely unheard.
  • "I've seen unfair treatment of the workers, and the pay isn't very high,” said Ari Moniodes, a barista at the 9th Street store who's part of the campaign.

The other side: Starbucks spokesperson Sarah Albanesi told Axios the company is "listening and learning from the partners in this store as we always do across the country."

  • If the NLRB determines to allow elections to be held at the stores, then Starbucks would encourage employees to vote, Albanesi said.

What to watch: Employees at two other city stores could file petitions in the coming weeks, Chatriand said

  • "We would hope for a ripple effect," he said.
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